I can literally say that being a program leader with the Twin Cities Summer of Solutions in 2011 was more educational than college. Planning and leading a program gave me a unique opportunity to pick up skills that many people do not gain until much later in life on a more traditional career path. I loved the work of developing the program, even the less exciting bits like creating a budget, writing grants, hiring program leaders, and allocating funding to participant applications, because I knew how much I was learning through every step of the process.
It was also so rewarding to be working in an environment where I was my own boss at age 20. I collaborated with an incredible team of co-leaders and we had a really strong system of holding each other accountable to our commitments, just based on the understanding that our program would suffer if we didn’t all step up. Even though most of my work planning the program was done remotely, I honestly looked forward to our conference calls a surprising amount, just based on how much I liked working with my team.
As carefully as we planned the summer, once the program started, it was a little like diving off the deep end, with the varied responsibilities of running a bunch of different projects and planning ongoing training sessions. Fortunately, this forced me to really learn how to swim. I learned how to plan trainings in a couple hours, where it would have taken me days just a few months before. I learned how to problem solve about anything that could and world arise, from interpersonal issues with participants to unresponsive residents we contacted in our energy efficiency campaign.
I think my experience planning and leading a SoS program was a big asset in helping me get my current job coordinating a program called Green Jobs Green New York at the Pratt Center for Community Development in Brooklyn, NY. Green Jobs Green New York has a remarkable similar mission to the work I was doing through the Twin Cities Summer of Solutions program, in terms of building sustainable and economically just communities from the bottom up through energy efficiency and job creation. Being a program leader with SoS gave me a really strong base to continue my work both in and outside of Grand Aspirations to create an economy in harmony with nature that allows all people to thrive.
If you’re interested in planning and leading a Summer of Solutions program, check out the application at http://grandaspirations.org/summer/build/. The deadline to apply is coming up on October 19. As you might be able to tell, I can’t recommend it highly enough.